Sunday, September 21, 2014

Operation Edcamp Parker County Complete!

About a year ago, two very excited educators in our district asked to meet with the librarians in our district. Erin Griffith was the assistant principal at the Ninth Grade Center and Natalie Hansen is the NGC art teacher and their Teacher of the Year. They came in talking fast & were very animated. :) Both of them described themselves as edcamp addicts and shared that they would travel to any edcamp that was near! They had the crazy idea to host an edcamp in Weatherford. I usually jump right in with crazy ideas, so I was listening. Plus, their excitement & passion were contagious! We talked logistics, dates, and locations. The main thing we needed was district buy in, as this would need to take place on one of our campuses, and we would need technology support. They were hoping for a spring date, but innovative ideas often take a little time to digest, so the date was pushed to the fall of 2014. 

Many people in education are familiar with edcamps, especially if you are a connected educator on Twitter. But to some, it is an unfamiliar concept. Here is a description from The Edcamp Foundation's website:

Planning began and Erin & Natalie found more people to help organize. There were now people not only from our district, but neighboring districts and one person from a district more than 2 hours away! Luckily, we are all connected, so planning the event went virtual.

To represent our community, Natalie created an awesome logo with a peach (Parker County is known for peaches & the Peach Festival), a motto that it was "going to be Peachy! and a website was made. It was getting closer!!




There were a few bumps in the road... Erin accepted a position at our local Education Service Center and our district hired a new director of technology, but the planning continued. We found that Erin was able to reach more people in her new position and our new technology director was eager to help the event be a success. 

Through Twitter chats, Voxer, and some face to face meetings with a few organizers, we could see Edcamp Parker County Texas (Edcamp PCTX) coming together. Planning took place in small increments, but everyone jumped in to make this happen!


We shared information at our district meetings, trying to get teachers excited about coming and our school district promoted the event through emails, the website and even talked about it during our back to school convocation. 


Displaying photo.JPG



Sponsors were secured for door prizes, local restaurants donated gift certificates for lunch time drawings, and thanks to the efforts of organizer Sara Reed, our Weatherford Chick-fil-A donated 200 breakfast sandwiches for the attendees. It is amazing how many companies, both locally & throughout the country, will support events such as this! 


Getting everyone signed in & giving our door prize tickets
Another wonderful part of this experience was witnessing how supportive our school district was of this event. It truly takes a village to pull off an edcamp, and there was a lot of help needed! Our technology department walked the building, tested Wi-Fi and increased hot spots to ensure there was enough internet access for the day. They opened up a special network for ease of access. In addition, they stayed with us the day of the event, just in case there was a problem! 


Erin kicked the day off with an explanation of what an edcamp is. If you haven't been to one, the beginning can look a bit chaotic and unorganized. 



Our superintendent welcomed attendees and even went to sessions! The great part about an edcamp is it is a level playing field. No one is held any higher than another person, and most people don't even know the positions held by the people there. So it was great to see everyone participating! Edcamps aren't for spectators! :)



The rest of the day is best told in pictures! There were so many amazing things that happened! 




And like magic, he was there! Thanks to Amanda's tweet!
People helping people become connected!

Small groups breaking off to talk more about a topic


Crowds of educators giving up a Saturday to learn & grow!


People having fun, because learning can be fun!


And THIS says it all!
Displaying photo.JPG

Planning for next year's Edcamp is already in the works! The group that came from Azle had such a great day, they want to host next year! Stay tuned for more information!


Thanks to everyone for a GREAT day from your Edcamp Parker County organizers!




Dot Day (Ish Week) Lots of Dots & Many Connections!

One of my favorite weeks of the school year is the week we celebrate International Dot Day! It turns into a whole week of connections and discussing ways to make our mark. It always seems funny to call it "Dot Day Week" so this year I heard it being called "Ish Week" which I LOVED!  This celebration is centered around the book, The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. There are many good lessons in this book including being brave, encouraging others, and making your mark, whatever your mark may be!

Before school even starts, connections are being made. Shannon Miller & Matthew Winner, two librarians and Dot Day Ambassadors, created a Google doc to manage all of the connections. Matthew has several great blog posts about Dot Day and lesson ideas! When it was all said and done, there were over 60 pages of schedules and requests for connections! We always try to connect every class that visits the library during this week, and this year we even brought in extra classes! At Curtis, connecting with people outside the walls of our school is a normal part of our year, so students begin in kindergarten learning how to interact with others through Skype and Google Hangouts. It is always fun to watch the expression on the kinders faces the first time they connect!

This year, we connected with students in Flower Mound, Texas, Illinois, Vermont , Georgia, Connecticut, Washington, Iowa, Missouri, Frisco, Texas, Wisconsin, Massachusettes, Friendswood, Texas, Austin, Texas, Maine & Maryland! We even connected with some states twice, with different schools! 

Usually, there would only be a few pictures on the blog, but this year I just couldn't narrow them down, so an Animoto presentation was created to show the great week we had!! Enjoy!


Curtis Students Showcase our School!

I am so very proud of our school and students, specifically the students that were brave enough to stand up in front of our school board and share the great things about Curtis! I was given the task to work with students to prepare a "student created, student presented" presentation for our school board about the great things happening at our school! You see, we try to do school "differently" at our school, and it was our turn to share what we do with our school board.

I looked to my Digital Bookworms for help! This is our media club from last year, and although we haven't started meeting yet, a couple of students jumped in to help!



Reagan & Sierra worked during lunch & came in after school to create the presentation. Kaitlyn joined the group after she showed an interest in our new Sphero robotics ball. It was decided that she would drive the ball into the meeting! We talked about the things that make our school unique, like our "makerspace", after school clubs, and our global connections. The students made a list and then we created a Google presentation to work off of for the project. The link to the presentation was emailed to each of them and the students kept adding their thoughts. This was going to be the way we presented the information to the school board until I remembered a tweet I saw about Emaze.com.

Emaze is an easy to use presentation tool that is visually appealing. We decided to switch to this! The templates are great and it is easy to add video, images and text. The basic edition is free, and more templates are available for a fee. An added bonus was when I saw this tweet:




So we tweeted this picture and received a free EDU account!



The students did a wonderful job preparing for the presentation, writing out their thoughts on notecards (which they did not end up needing!) They stood in front of the school board and spoke confidently about our school. It was wonderful to hear them share their perceptions of our school!

Kaitlyn, Sierra & Reagan getting ready to present

Gavin & Connor waiting to lead the audience in the Pledge

The presentation went well, and during the section on our makerspace, Kaitlyn drove in Roo, our new Sphero robotics ball that was received through Donors Choose funding. You can see the whole presentation Here.


Kaitlyn shows off "Roo" our robotics ball
Everyone enjoyed Roo and the students' presentation. We were all very proud of our students! It is a great thing when students are given a voice and are able to share the student perspective of their school! 




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mrs. P's Writing Contest & Skype Visit

Today was our first connection of the year, and we all had such a great time! Last week, I saw these tweets and jumped at the opportunity to connect some of our students with Mrs. P! Thanks to my friend, Shannon Miller, I have had the opportunity to Skype with Mrs. P before, and knew our students would love connecting with her again!


I sent an email to our teachers and had immediate responses from multiple grade levels! Our teachers are used to connecting and jump at the chance when it is presented! We settled on first grade & third grade. Both grades wanted to come as a grade level, which was easy thanks to our new library set up!                                                                                                            

Mrs. P wanted to talk with our students about reading & writing. She has an annual writing contest and we were hoping some of our classes might enter the contest this year. 


The theme for this year is Time Travel! When I walked by classes before the Skype visit I could hear all of the excitement as classes talked about possible topics! What I think is so fun about this writing contest is that it is a class contest. Only one entry per class is accepted, so a class can collaborate on one story or vote for the story they want to enter. There are so many options, and it makes it easy for a teacher to choose what fits best for her classroom environment!



Mrs. P was very entertaining and shared with our students how important it is to read. She even gave the students her secret about writing a story: If you can tell a story, you can write a story! Sounds easy, right!?



Mrs. P told the students that she has over 1,000 pets! She talked about polar bears and wolves! They weren't quite sure if she was "telling a story" or not, but they She then asked our students about their pets, and even about brothers or sisters.


 




She used their answers to create a story right in front of them! Our students enjoyed listening to Mrs. P create a story with characters they gave her!



It was a wonderful visit and I know our students left excited about writing a time travel story to enter into Mrs. P's writing contest! You can find more information about her contest HERE.


 Mrs. P's Be-A-Famous Writer Contest

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

FINALLY! Curtis Learners in the Library!!

Today was the first day students came to the library and it was wonderful! Thanks to inspiration by other librarians, I had created a video QR code tour of the library. With our recent renovation, sections had been moved around for better flow, and I wanted students to get the feel of the new space. In previous years, I had led classes around the library & talked about each section, but this year older students are using iPads and scanning QR codes to become familiar with the sections.

Sixth graders were first to arrive and they did a great job navigating the new space!




Third graders came next, and they enjoyed the tour and trying out the new stools in the makerspace!



With our 2nd graders, we read Goldie Socks & the Three Libearians and talked about choosing just right books! Students were then able to select two books for check-out and try out our new  "Read & Meet" areas in the library!




Displaying photo.JPG


It was a great day in the library!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Library Make-Over

Our school was freshened up over the summer. This meant that EVERYTHING had to be packed up and moved to the gym at the end of last school year. The library is upstairs and the gym is downstairs. You can imagine that this was quite the ordeal. Eventually, EVERYTHING would have to be moved back upstairs! Books, equipment, technology, and more books! May was a hard month, and August was going to be just as hard! The only difference was that in August, I would be moving everything in to a brighter space with new carpet & fresh paint! Honestly, NOW I am so excited about our new library learning space, I just smile whenever I walk around in it! I can't say that I was as excited when I first saw our library on August 15th. It looked like this:

We have over 20 different shelving units in the library, 9 heavy wooden tables, 60 heavy wooden chairs, and all of this was stacked in the middle of the library! I was overwhelmed to say the least! I couldn't even reach the top chair to begin taking apart our mountain of furniture. So I did what any normal person would: I left and went to buy fabric to cover some old benches! 

They turned out really cute, and I was able to stay sane while our district maintenance department pulled some of the furniture mountain down. On Monday, I had a few librarians come over to help and we moved all of the shelves into place. Thank goodness for those handy moving pads! I can't even begin to thank Debbie for all of her help on this day!! It was a long, hard day!  When I left that day, the library looked like this:


Keep in mind that at this point, no boxes or books had been brought up from the gym. We had packed a lot of the books on library book carts, so Monday night we started bringing those up. Thankfully, on Tuesday, my dear librarian colleagues from the district came to my rescue! By the end of the day, all the Everybody & Non-Fiction sections were put on shelves! They were also instrumental in helping with the flow of the library! We rearranged shelves & sections until it felt right! I could not have done this without them!!   Tuesday night, all of the boxes were brought up by our maintenance department and some volunteers. 





By Wednesday, the library was again a complete disaster! And again, I had some wonderful volunteers, including one of our sweet 5th graders and some previous Curtis students, come to my rescue! At one point, I even had a school board member knocking off items on my to-do list! It takes a village to put a library back together! Thank you to Denise, Kari Ann, Jaylee, Kelly, Emily & Dalyn for all of your help!

Thanks to WISD school board member, Jeff Geyer, my desk was fixed, as well as my new mobile checkout station!
There is no need to give you day by day pictures from this point because it was a slow process. Since I had requested my huge circulation desk be removed, I had to figure out where to put all of the things I stored in there! I also had removed part of my office desk, so I again lost storage. What I was trying to do was create more usable space for our students. By removing the circulation desk, I was able to free up some space which allowed us to set up our green screen permanently. Teachers & students are already dreaming of ways to use this new tool! 







With our redesigned space, we also now have some reading & meeting areas for student use.


There is a whole group story area for our young readers and a whole group instructional area for our older students. Both of these areas have a large screen with a computer for Skypes, GHOs and project shares.






And the makerspace is still there! We are making some improvements in there also, with some Donors Choose projects that were funded recently, but I'll post that later. 

My hope for this year is that this new and improved environment is constantly in use by teachers, classes, small groups, and individual visitors to our library & learning center! I want students to come in to collaborate, create & connect with others as often as possible! With this in mind, we will offer green screen and makerspace orientation for classes, so that students are able to come to the library when there is a project to complete or time for exploration, and know exactly how to use these spaces. 

Stay tuned for how our students use their new space! And please share if you are a librarian and have a great space for your students! I searched many blogs, websites, etc to try to find ideas and would love to see what others have done, with limited funds & older furniture. :)